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Finding Purpose-Filled Career Paths:
3 Key Insights
Finding Purpose-Filled Career Paths:
3 Key Insights

Converting your passion, interests and sense of purpose into a meaningful career path may not be easy—but then, the most important things in life seldom are.

To help you get started, we'll need to ask some questions about two different types of motivations, not only in the abstract, but as they apply to your own life specifically.

Your answers may well hold clues to what a purpose-filled career path looks like for you going forward.


Extrinsic Versus Intrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference?

In order to connect your sense of passion and purpose to a meaningful career path, it’s important to recognize the difference between two distinct types of motivation: extrinsic versus intrinsic.

Click the plus-signs below to get the full breakdown.

  • Extrinsic Motivation

    (Spoiler alert: This is the slightly less positive term for our purposes here. )

    'Extrinsic motivation' refers to anything you’re driven to do because of some external reward you hope to receive in return. Think: trophies, money, recognition from peers, not incurring negative consequences—anything in this direction.

    These types of actions usually don’t satisfy core psychological or emotional needs. While these things are goal-oriented activities, to be sure, they may not feel inherently rewarding or meaningful to you.
  • Intrinsic Motivation

    'Intrinsic motivation' refers to anything you do because the activity is rewarding in and of itself. As such, goals aren’t the point; rather, goals are generated (by you) from within. If you’re passionate about these activities, it’s because they feel inherently meaningful.

    What's more, doing them generally increases your sense of autonomy, competence and connection to others, too.

With that in mind, take a moment now to reflect on your own experiences, even going back to childhood. Can you pinpoint moments or activities where a specifically extrinsic motivation was the primary driver? What about the opposite—moments or activities where intrinsic motivation seemed to be the dominant factor?

Hold on to your answers for now, as we’ll need to revisit them in a moment.

But first, let’s turn to look at a few examples of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in practice, which should help reinforce the distinction and make it more concrete.


Examples of Extrinsic and Intrinsic Motivations in Practice

We’ve broken down extrinsic and intrinsic motivation as two distinct categories—and two very different reasons why people carry out actions. But how do these motivations actually play out in practice?

Here are a few examples of actions driven by extrinsic motivations, and why:

  • Diligently applying yourself to schoolwork in order to be ranked first in your class.
  • Working hard at a summer job, even though you don’t enjoy it, in order to earn money for back-to-school clothes.
  • Insisting on using a specific credit card because it earns you airline miles, discounts or rewards.

By contrast, here are a few examples of actions driven by intrinsic motivations, and why:

  • Playing basketball because it’s fun and you enjoy doing it, not simply for the goal of winning the game or getting a trophy.
  • Learning a new language because you like to experience new things and cultures, not because you’re required to do so for school.
  • Spending time with someone because you enjoy their company, not because you want to ask them for a favour.
  • Volunteering at a soup kitchen because giving back to the community makes you feel fulfilled, not because it will strengthen your college-admission applications.

The difference should be fairly clear at this point, but be sure to keep it in mind. As we’ll see, it bears directly on the broader conversation about passion, purpose—and identifying which career path is the right one for you.


Connecting Motivation, Passion, Purpose and Career Paths

How can the distinction between two types of motivations—extrinsic versus intrinsic—be applied to finding a career path that aligns with your passion and purpose?

Well, there are two considerations to take into account, and from what we've covered so far, neither of them should come as a huge surprise:

  • The right career path for you is one that aligns with your interests and values (which we can treat as synonyms for 'passion' and 'purpose').
  • It’s necessarily going to involve something that you’re intrinsically, not extrinsically, motivated to do.

The first point above might suggest a few courses of action, especially if you’re just starting to think about your career options, to be sure. But a good starting point would be to closely examine the mission statements of any prospective employer, which at Johnson & Johnson you’ll find in what we call 'Our Credo'—341 words that clearly outline our values and continually guide everything we do.

As for the second point, you’ll need to revisit your earlier reflections on the kinds of activities that have mobilised intrinsic, rather than extrinsic, motivations in your own life. The question is: What (primarily) drives you? Is it exploring and learning new things? Innovating and finding solutions? Making a positive impact in people's lives?

It might be something else entirely, of course, or perhaps some combination of all three. Whatever the case may be, make sure it’s at the heart of whichever career path you choose. And to see how your intrinsic motivations might ladder up to real-world opportunities, check out all of the roles we’re hiring for at Johnson & Johnson today.

Plus, before you go, why not join our global talent community, too? It's an easy way to stay in touch, learn more about life at Johnson & Johnson and even sign up for updates about jobs that might interest you in the future.

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